Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell is spending the week in South Carolina, giving readers an up-close view of all the movers and shakers throughout the preparation for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
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Who: Top players in North Carolina vs. top players in South Carolina
What:74th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas
When: 1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Dec. 18
Where: Gibbs Stadium, Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.
Why you should care: The nation's No. 1 player, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, leads a strong South Carolina team that is also highlighted by wide receiver Charone Peake (Clemson) and offensive lineman Brandon Shell (South Carolina), both Rivals100 prospects. The North Carolina team is led by linebackers Stephone Anthony and Kris Frost, and tight end Eric MacLain (Clemson).
Five things Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell is looking forward to seeing:
1. Jadeveon Clowney
Can Clowney dominate? The nation's No. 1 prospect, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe, will be watched every second of every practice and he's impossible not to follow during game action. The question is, with so much attention on him and with the North Carolina team well aware of how he needs to be minimized, can he still dominate? Clowney can line up at any position along the defensive line and it will be interesting to see if the South Carolina staff moves him around. The North Carolina offensive line has some good players, specifically Jarrod James and Dylan Intemann, but Clowney can't be single-blocked. Huge tight ends Eric Maclain and Derell Lamb will be asked to chip Clowney and the running backs might need to help as well.
2. Quarterback battle
The last few years at the Shrine Bowl, the quarterback play has been brutal, leading to wildcat formations, triple options and other wacky offensive sets. This year there are two very talented and heavily recruited signal-callers on each team so airing the ball out and utilizing talent at wide receiver and tight end will finally be a priority. On the SC side, Everett Golson is a dual-threat who can make things happen outside the pocket and Justin Worley is a pocket passer who simply puts up huge numbers. On the NC side, Marquise Williams has a strong arm and good pocket presence and Vad Lee is athletic enough to play other positions if needed. This should be the best passing attack on both sides in the game in years.
3. Recruiting implications
There are many top prospects at the game that aren't committed led by Clowney, Stephone Anthony, Kris Frost, Lateek Townsend and Phillip Dukes and plenty of prospects committed to Clemson and South Carolina as well as other programs. Can Clowney be worked for the Gamecocks, will Clemson commits be all over Anthony and which side will Townsend and Dukes align themselves? Frost is the only one likely to leave the immediate area but the others are all looking at local programs as well as others. And what about Marquise Williams? Will he stick with North Carolina or will he flip to Virginia Tech as many have expected? Lots of intrigue at this event.
OK, fan bases are a bit biased toward the players that have committed to their schools, we know that much. However, certain fan bases are convinced and beyond sure that some players in this game aren't getting a fair shake. This is the chance for those players to shine. Among them are quarterback Justin Worley (Tennessee), Everett Golson (Notre Dame), Brandon Shell (South Carolina[/db], and Charone Peake (Clemson) on the South Carolina side and Eric Ebron (North Carolina), Marcus Leak (Maryland) and Ben Councell (Notre Dame) on the North Carolina side. Traditionally sleepers have emerged at this event, overrated prospects have been exposed and some underrated players have moved up in the rankings. This year should be no different.
5. The big names
While the underrated dominate our e-mails and message boards, this is an exciting event for the huge names that will be on hand. Sure it stinks that Jeoffrey Pagan is injured and won't be able to participate because we've been looking forward to seeing him at the Shrine Bowl for months. However, Clowney is in Spartanburg all week as is Anthony, Frost, MacLain, Peake, Shell and Thorpe, all Rivals100 prospects. In addition to those seven players, James, Townsend, Dukes and Martin are all Rivals250 prospects. This year might not be as top-heavy as last year's group headlined by five stars Keenan Allen and Marcus Lattimore, but it's a really good group.